Monday, June 18, 2018

Review of LAUNDRY MAN by Jake Needham




(The Jack Shepherd International Crime Novels Book 1)
Mystery / Thriller
Date Published: January 16, 2014

“LAUNDRY MAN is in the tough-talking tradition of Elmore Leonard and Ed McBain and deeply infused with a sense of place. Jake Needham gets things right.” -- Asia Review of Books

Once a high-flying international lawyer, a member of the innermost circles of government power, Jack Shepherd has abandoned the savage politics of Washington for the lethargic backwater of Bangkok, where he is now just an unremarkable professor at an unimportant university in an insignificant city.

Or is he?

A secretive Asian bank collapses under dubious circumstances. A former law partner Shepherd thought was dead admits he was behind the disgraced bank and coerces Shepherd into helping him track the hundreds of millions of dollars that disappeared in the collapse. A twisting trail of deceit leads Shepherd from Bangkok to Hong Kong and eventually to an isolated villa on the fabled island of Phuket where he confronts the evil at the heart of a monstrous game of international treachery.

A lawyer among people who laugh at the law, a friend in a land where today’s allies are tomorrow’s fugitives, Jack Shepherd battles a global tide of corruption, extortion and murder that is fast engulfing the new life he has made for himself in Thailand
 
REVIEW

Superb Complex Thriller – BUY IT

Jack Shepherd is living the life in Bangkok. Teaching at Chulalongkorn University, his lawyering days are behind him – or so he thought. A two o’clock in the morning call awakens him from a sound sleep, but that’s not the problem. The problem is the other guy on the line. He insists he’s Barry Gale, but as everyone knows, Gale is dead.

Oh, this book is a winner!

LAUNDRY MAN by Jake Needham is the kind of book you hope to find, but rarely do. From the first page, it sinks its hook into a reader’s soft palate, and doesn’t let go. Good on so many levels, it’s sort of frightening that someone can tell a story this well, but that’s what happens in this non-stop plunge into a conspiratorial abyss.

Needham is masterful in his delivery. The atmosphere and descriptions are first-rate, and as for the story, it’s cogent and impressive in scope. No doubt that you’ll want to be puttin’ on those thinking caps for this one! The plot hinges on dirty business deals and global finance, but don’t worry if you’re not up on international law. The ins and outs are told in a remarkable understandable style. The complex information is comprehensible and quickly processed. The skillful handling helps prevent the pacing from getting bogged down, while its inclusion helps form a fuller, more intricate picture of the spidery doings going on.

Jack Shepherd is a bona fide hit. His character is illustrated to the nth degree. We see his strengths and many flaws, but don’t lose sympathy because of the shortcomings. Instead, we fight alongside him as the web tightens round him. In fact, all the very many seamy, seamier, seamiest characters he meets along the way are enjoyable. They’re of the scum-sucking variety and really add depth of flavor to this soup.

Everybody has an angle, and I wasted no time in trying like crazy to figure out what they were and where the story was headed. Luckily, it was impossible, and so I gave up trying and went along for the ride. Let me tell you it was sensational, and it’s books like these that make me want to give up backseat driving for good!

Kudos to Mr. Needham, and to those savvy enough to pick this baby up and find how good reading can be. While I usually include both up and downsides in my reviews, there are no downsides here. It’s why I can give it FIVE BIG BOLD THRILLING STARS for a job well done! If you’re into intelligent action, LAUNDRY MAN is a must! 




Friday, February 16, 2018

IN SHEEP'S CLOTHING: L.D. Beyer


A Media Thriller
Date Published: Septmber 1, 2015

One man holds the reins of power.
One man vows to protect him.
One man vows to destroy him...

Caught in a game of chess he didn’t know he was playing until it was too late, the President makes the only move he can, plunging Washington and the nation into chaos. Stunned and reeling, Vice President David Kendall takes the oath of office and tries to heal a nation in mourning. But what the new president doesn’t realize is that things in the White House aren’t always what they appear to be, and sometimes what looks like the best option may turn out to be the worst. When one fatal decision triggers consequences he never envisioned, President Kendall finds himself caught up in the same game that cost his predecessor his life.
Although there was nothing he could have done, Secret Service Agent Matthew Richter is haunted by the death of the man he had vowed to protect. When his girlfriend dumps him and his boss tells him that his job is on the line, he thinks his life cannot get any worse. He soon realizes how wrong he is when he finds himself fighting to save another president from the deadly forces that he has unwittingly unleashed.
 
REVIEW

All Out Blitz of a Political Thriller

President David Kendall is in an unenviable position. Eight weeks since President Walter’s suicide, Kendall was forced to take the helm. Now he struggles to enlist key players to unify the administration that is dropping out. Their resignations will do nothing to help coalesce the nation still healing from the tragedy of Walter’s untimely death. Kendall seeks out counsel to help bridge the political divide and soon finds reason to suspect betrayal and treachery amongst the upper tiers of power. Little does he know that the group may have had a hand in Walter’s decision, and that they may have already targeted their next victim.

IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING by  L.D. Beyer is a taut thriller that fleshes out everyone’s worst political nightmare. The character of President Kendall is the man in charge and the one who must discern friend from foe and weed through the land mines set to go off. Luckily, author L.D. Beyer has provided him with Matt Richter for protection. Matt Richter is as solid a character as I’ve read lately. His backstory of being the secret service agent closest to Walter when he committed suicide is the stuff that anyone could relate to. And it’s the guilt associated with not being able to prevent the tragedy that eats Richter alive and produces the nightmares he experiences at night.

I loved both these leads and was deeply vested in what happened to them. The plot that allowed them to live, breath, and act out was deftly handled and provided them the space to make this novel come to life. I was rooting for both all the way through this story, and doubted they’d make it through to the end.

In terms of negatives, the pacing at the beginning of this novel was a little wonky. The paragraphs were off in terms of what they included and size, and it did throw me off. But once that incendiary moment happens, there’s no more diddling about. It’s pure adrenaline-rush entertainment that makes it #unputdownable. 

I especially loved, loved, loved the way Beyer handled the technical aspects of this thriller. They were crucial to making this believable and pulling the concept seem more than real. Because of this, final score is a 4.6.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

THE MOCKINGBIRD DRIVE by A.C. Fuller



A Media Thriller
Date Published: May 19, 2017
Alex Vane was once a top investigative journalist.
Now he peddles celebrity gossip and clickbait listicles,
 watching from a distance as his wife moves on
with her life - without him. But Alex's past catches
up to him when he learns that an old source,
 James Stacy, has been killed in a
random mass shooting.

James left Alex one last scoop: a 50-year-old hard drive
that may contain a secret worth killing for...
and the name of the one person who can help him
access the data. That person is Quinn Rivers,
a paranoid and reclusive computer expert
who believes the CIA is tracking her every move.
And she may be right.

When Alex shows up at her door with the hard drive,
armed operatives are right behind him.
Now Alex and Quinn are on the run. There is no one to trust,
nowhere to hide, and nothing
but the hard drive to prove that
James Stacy's death wasn't random at all.
REVIEW

Enjoyable but Flawed

Journalist Alex Vane loses a good friend to a mass shooting. Although the gunman is deemed to be a nut-job lone wolf, Alex begins to suspect more. Sure enough, associates begin to tell him that his friend was in possession of a hard drive—an old one— and in the midst of lining up someone to extract the data off of it when killed. Soon shadowy figures cloud Alex’s vision, and a tech-savvy conspiracy theorist becomes his only hope. Together they’re in a race to find out what information was on that hard drive, and why it was important enough to kill for.  

THE MOCKINGBIRD DRIVE by A.C. Fuller was a mixed bag of tricks for me. It started out more than fine, easily capturing my interest and attention. Alex Vane showed potential to be a great character, and the plotline was thundering along for the first few chapters. They were fantastic, and I was enjoying how the story was piecing together, but then “Greta” happened. She was the first of many wheels that fell off this truck.  

Among the issues was Alex Vane himself. The guy was a credentialed journalist who created and ran his own online media outlet that dabbled in trending topics and videos depicting #starshame. Because he was portrayed as this clever, intelligent guy who’s been around the block a few times, his actions and thought processes didn’t fit. He more bumbled his way through things, acting like a complete idiot in not taking things seriously. The mere fact a friend was murdered would give most people a slight shove in the direction that the bad guys were playing for keeps. And yet Alex shrugs it off, dismissing what he knows and choosing to remain blissfully unaware. Another problem was that he engages in way too many rounds of pretzel logic. IRRITATING! Especially when it only tightens the knot being formed by remaining obtuse. The next thing on my list (yes, I did keep tabs), was the political correctness going on. It seemed contrived. Especially when he labels the one person trying to help him as a “conspiracy theorist.” He dismisses her as not reliable only because she had a stint in a mental health hospital. Shouldn’t someone who took the proper steps be applauded and not condemned? Where’s the PC correctness where she’s involved? Seemed very unfair. All of the above alienated me from this character, and had me cheering whenever he got pummeled -- and I haven’t even gotten to Greta yet.

Oh, jeez! GRETA! Even the invocation of that egocentric self-serving bimbo’s name is enough to start me reliving the torture of passages dealing with this skank. And if I found Alex’s inner dialogues grating, Greta’s hare-brained musings had me looking for a bridge to jump off of. The fact that Alex treats the nonsensical drivel that leaks out this new age scatterbrain’s mouth as wisdom to live by made me wonder if being in love is injurious to brain cells. But then I remembered it couldn’t be love. What Alex was experiencing is masochism. And just because he feels compelled to enjoy torture doesn’t mean I do. The shrew’s constant criticism of everything, including breathing, was more than annoying. For instance, the online media outlet Vane started? Greta doesn’t think it “serious enough” for her liking and wishes that Vane would do something like find the cure for cancer. Actually, Greta, we’d all like someone to do that, but we often earn our bitcoins in less noble endeavors. And all the whininess only covers an extremely vindictive nature and not a heart of gold. Nope, no redeeming qualities here. She goes on, wreaking some pretty childish revenge, yet still he’s interested in this whack job? Even AFTER he finds out? And when I think about Alex considering this skank stable while labeling the woman actually trying to save his life unstable, yeah, no. But the author never gives up trying to convince us of this undying passion. I’d liken the wasted effort of attempting to capture the essence of why Alex and Greta are together to watching someone bleed out on the floor.

All of the above ruined an otherwise great novel because that’s what THE MOCKINGBIRD DRIVE should have been—and still could be. It should have soared to fantastically intense thriller heights, but its wings were pinioned and there were those two cement blocks on its feet – both named Greta.*shudders*

As for the positives, I’ll start with the fact that M.C. Fuller is a gifted author. There’s no denying the talent there. The author is also creative as is exhibited by an extremely inventive and original plotline. The pacing was also pretty tight except when inner machinations and wheat grass sniffing Greta bogged it down. The chase scenes where Alex is outrunning the bad guys are outstanding. They draw us right in and get our hearts pounding. Another strong point was the characters. All except for you-know-who are very well developed and interesting. No one-dimensional characterizations to be found. The technical explanations were also deftly handled and the descriptive passages exceedingly well-drawn.

What can I say? Ultimately, I did enjoy  the book and can recommend it with reservations. But because it’s a mixed bag of tricks, I’m not scoring it as high as I might if those issues were corrected. So in the end, I’m giving MOCKINGBIRD DRIVE 3.6 stars.